If you ever find yourself confused and frustrated about choosing the best cookware for your needs, you are not alone. Studies show that many people will make their purchase based solely on looks of the cookware, price, promotion, or whatever their friend will suggest to them, and not really understanding the unique characters of the difference type cookware available out there and what they really need.

I made that mistake myself a couple years ago. I wanted to buy the best cookware as a gift for my husband. Both of us love cooking and we enjoy working together in the kitchen. So after we purchased our very first house, a set of good cookware will be the best gift to him. I must say I was very lost the minute I walked into the cookware store. With so many varieties of cookware out there I think even some professionals would get confused. Of course I did not buy at the spot and simply went home to do a bit of research. But to my surprise I did not find comprehensive information I needed to select the so called the best cookware I wanted. Frustrated enough, I made my decision to just go there and ask the cookware specialist in the store. They seem to be very knowledgeable when they talked about different cookware products they carry. However after my purchase, I realized that the sale representative’s suggestion is not all accurate and the cookware I bought is nowhere near my expectation of the best cookware.

That day I bought a set of cast iron cookware. I am not going into the details but simply to say that the cookware was not exactly what I needed even though it is a great cast iron cookware set and it serves its purpose. Since we enjoy cooking very much and love people praising our food, over the years I studied cookware from books, magazines and other internet sites and I have learned quite a bit from those readings.

With the above being said, I want to share my knowledge with people who are interested in cookware so that when they can too learn a bit more about cookware so that they can make an informed buying decision.

Buying the wrong set of cookware will not only cost you money, but the unused cookware also takes up space in your kitchen. The purpose of this cookware comparison guide is therefore to provide readers like you with information you need to make the right decision over the buying of your best cookware for your needs.

In choosing the best cookware, the very first thing, both basic but extremely critical, is understanding the materials that the cookware is made of.

Listed below is the most popular and common materials used in cookware. Now I will focus my discussion on pots and pans and other commonly used cookware at the moment and later on, we’ll talk about other cookware you find in your kitchen.

Categories of materials used for cookware:

  • Stainless Steel
  • Copper
  • Cast Iron
  • Enameled Cast iron
  • Aluminum
  • Anodized Aluminum
  • Carbon Steel
  • Enamel On-Steel
  • GreenPan

Other materials which we’ll talk about in details later

  •  Clay
  •  Glass
  •  Ceramics
  •  Silicone
  • Stone

Cookware Materials Comparison Guide:

MaterialsProsConsBest Brands
Stainless Steelstainless steel cookware- Durable yet light
- Everlasting beauty
- Easy to maintain, Will not corrode or stain
- Non reactive material (food tastes like it should)
- Compatible with gas, electric, ceramic stovetops; safe in oven and broiler
- Dishwasher safe
- Best when clad onto other metals such as copper or aluminum
- Not the best conductor of heat
- Not distribute heat evenly.
copper cookware
- Excellent heat conduction
- Heat evenly
- Non-stick
- Easy to clean
- Unlined copper cookware poses a health hazardMauviel
Cast Iron
Lodge cast iron
- Cast Iron is an excellent heat conductor and heat evenly
- Safe and non-sticky; Excellent for searing or frying
- Use it on the stovetop or in the oven
- Good for induction cooktops
- Strong and durable, Will last for generations
- Very heavy
- React with acidic food
- Need to be seasoned
- Will rust if not cared for properly
- Not dishwasher safe
- May damage glass cooktops because rough finishes may scratch the cooktop
Enameled Cast IronEnameled Cast Iron- Durable
- Beautiful
- Can go from stovetop or oven to table
- Non-reactive finish
Iron is an excellent heat conductor
- Excellent for searing or frying
- Use it on the stovetop or in the oven
- Good for induction cooktops
- Will not damage glass cooktops
- No need to regular seasoning.
- Heavy
- Cheap brands will chip easily
- Cheap brands will rust at the edges
- More expensive than bare cast iron
Le Creuset
Aluminum Cookware
- Lightweight and durable
- Excellent conductor of heat, aluminum heats quickly and evenly.
- Dishwasher safe
- Inexpensive and ideal for general-purpose cooking.
- Compatible with gas, electric, ceramic stovetops; safe in oven and broiler
- Easy to scratch
- Reacts with Food
- Health Safety issue
Anodized AluminumAnodized Aluminum- Excellent heat conduction
- Non-stick
- Scratch-resistant
- Durable
- Easy to clean
- Reduce Aluminum leaching
- Reasonable Price
- oxidized surface can wear outCalphalon
Carbon Steel
Carbon Steel cookware
- Excellent heat conduction
- Must be seasoned before use
- React to acid
- Easy to rust
Enamel On-Steel
Enamel On Steel Cookware
- Excellent heat conduction
- No reaction with food
- Need careful attention to prevent the chips off
- Non-stick
- Safe and No toxic
- Excellent heat conduction
- Resonable price
- 5 Years warranty
- Should not be heated to high temperaturesGreenPan
Check our complete GreenPan Reviews.

Stainless Steel Cookware:

Among many types of cookware, stainless steel cookware is one of the most popular one. The metal used is an alloy or a mixture of other metals like, nickel and chromium, combined in a way that creates a surface that is very resistant to scratches, rust and corrosion. As such, it is very durable and can last for many years. Stainless steel cookware also has the shiny clean look that makes them look really good and professional. However, nothing is perfect or else everyone will simply go for stainless steel when it comes to buying cookware won’t they.

Most stainless steel cookware tends to share the same issue, poor heat conductivity, meaning poor heat transfer or circulation. This is an issue because if the heat is not conducting properly, energy or heat is not stream continuously and evening on all surface of the cookware then some areas of the pot or pan will get very hot while other areas are cool, this will impact the quality of food you prepare. With this issue, some food also tends to stick onto the pan. Knowing this problem some stainless steel cookware is now made with aluminum or copper core. This way the cookware is very good at heat conduction. But this option comes with a hefty price tag.

Copper Cookware:

Copper cookware is usually made of solid copper exterior and tin or stainless steel interior that resist sticking and to prevent copper from being absorbed into the food while it is being cooked. Copper is used in cookware because it is highly heat conductive and is famous for its ability to evenly transferring heat through foods, this means that copper cookware will prevent hot spots that can burn food on sections of the cookware. Because copper cookware are non-sticky they are also very easy to clean.

Another characteristic of copper cookware is their beautiful attractive appearance and they definitely stands out in a kitchen when you expose them or use them as decoration. The major benefits of copper cookware is its fast heat conductivity, many times faster than aluminum or cast iron cookware, as stated by the New York Times reporter Harold McGee in a 2008 article reviewing various types of pots and pans. This strong heat conductivity allows cooks to control the cooking temperature of foods easily and the outcome is better tasty food. The biggest drawback of copper cookware is the price. These cookware sets come with a price tag ranging from $400 to way over $1,000. Another drawback on copper cookware is that copper may darken or fade in color over time and making them less attractive.

Buyers of unlined copper cookware should be warned. Unlined copper cookware poses a health hazard as copper can seep into food during contact and this may cause food poisoning. For unlined copper cookware, use them for decoration only and NOT for cooking.

Cast Iron Cookware:

Cast iron cookware has been around for a very very long time for a reason, they last that long! Seriously if you take proper care and use of your cast iron cookware, they can last forever.

As mentioned above, one of the main advantages of cast iron cookware is that the material used to make the forever lasting cookware is extremely durable. This material, well cast iron, is excellent in heat conductivity and retention. After you turn off your stove, the heat will remain for at least 15 to 20 minutes in the winter time. No kidding. Another advantage about cast iron cookware is affordability. A good non-enameled cast iron pot or pan/skillet will only cost a fraction of a good stainless steel cookware. Now depending on how well you prepare your cast iron cookware before use and how well you maintain it after it is used, your cast iron cookware might be better at stick resistant than cookware made of other materials.

With the good things said about cast iron cookware, the downside of it is the weight of these cookware. They weigh at least a few times heavier than cookware made with other materials. I have two cast iron skillets at home and I use them a lot. What I found annoying is when I have to lift that thing. It feels like I am doing weight lifting at the gym or something. Even though cast iron is very heat conductive, it takes time to heat them up. Another downside to cast iron is the regular seasoning requirement to prevent it from becoming sticky. Further more, cast iron reacts to acidic foods and it might impart some iron onto foods you cook in it. However this is not consider dangerous but rather defects the taste of your perfect dish.

Enameled Cast Iron Cookware:

Similar to the regular cast iron cookware the enameled cast iron cookware has all the benefits such as heat conductivity and retention, low-stick surface, and durable, but it has also corrected the issue with respect to acid reaction and eliminated the need to regular seasoning.

The disadvantage with enameled cast iron is that it is very heavy and the good ones are extremely expensive. The enameled cast iron also takes time to heat up. There is a saying that buying an enameled cast iron cookware is like an investment, don’t go for the cheap imitation because they chip and discolor quickly.

Aluminum Cookware:

Aluminum cookware is made from sheet aluminum; cast aluminum. Cast aluminum is lightweight, conducts heat very well and is relatively inexpensive compare to the rest of cookware made with other materials, as such making it a popular choice for cookware.

However there is concern about the safety of using aluminum cookware. Since aluminum cookware reacts with food, especially leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and citrus products and such food absorb the aluminum, there is a concern of using aluminum cookware for the preparation of meals containing these ingredients. During cooking, aluminum dissolves easily from worn or pitted pots and pans. The longer the food is cooked or stored in aluminum, the greater the amount of aluminum will get into your food therefore increase your risk of consuming too much for this material in your body. There is an unproven thought that even the smallest consumption of aluminum from our daily food ingestion will lead to the horrible Alzheimer’s disease. North Americans take in about 10 milligrams of aluminum daily, mostly from the food we consume. The portion from aluminum pots and pans provide only about 2 milligrams of the total. The World Health Organization estimates that adults can consume more than 50 milligrams of aluminum daily without harm. Aluminum is also very common in bakeware because of their lightweight and ease of heat conductivity.

Anodized Aluminum Cookware:

The term “Anodized” simply means electrochemically treated to form a thick and stable oxidation layer. When aluminum is placed in an acid solution and exposed to an electric current, that layer of oxidized surface is created. Anodized aluminum cookware has all benefits of ordinary aluminum, conducts heat as well as ordinary aluminum, but has a much harder surface. The harder surface is also non-stick, scratch-resistant, more durable, and easier to clean.

Further more and most importantly, anodization reduces leaching of aluminum from cookware into foods, particularly acidic food like tomatoes mentioned earlier. One would think that with all these additional benefits from the anodization, the anodized aluminum cookware must be way more expensive than the ordinary aluminum cookware, and that is not true. The price is very reasonable. The only downside of anodized aluminum cookware is that overtime the oxidized surface can wear out, especially from constant cooking with acidic food.

Carbon Steel Cookware:

Carbon steel is a tough alloy or iron containing carbon. This material is commonly used in wok, a cookware commonly used in the oriental kitchen and paella pan used by the Spanish. Carbon steel can be rolled and hammered into a very thin sheet of material, while still maintaining high strength and heat resistance. This allows for rapid and high heating. With that being said, carbon steel does not conduct heat very well, and perhaps this is one reason why it is used in wok and other paella pans. Said cookware requires one portion of it being kept at different temperature than the rest. Similar to cast iron, carbon steel must be seasoned before use. Rub a fat (lard) on the cooking surface and heat the cookware on the stove top. After repeating this process for several times, the cooking surface will be dark and non-sticking. Carbon steel will easily rust if left without seasoned.

The main advantage of carbon steel cookware is the price. These cookware are relatively cheap compared to the other materials. After proper seasoning, it is also stick resisting, easy to clean, can handle high heat, reasonable weight (not so heavy like cast iron or very light like the copper or stainless steal cookware but somewhere in between). The downsides of carbon steel cookware, as mentioned above, are the steel may react to acidic food and can rust easily. It also requires reasoning before use and before you store it away for a period of time to avoid rusting.

Enamel On-Steel Cookware:

Enamel on-steel cookware is similar to regular carbon steel cookware with an added layer of porcelain enamel to serve as protection against metal from reacting with food. However this layer of protection is only suitable for stove-top use and not suitable for oven or microwave. When using enamel on-steel cookware, one should also not use temperature that is hotter than necessary to avoid scorching. With the added layer of protection you will have to pay a bit more than the non-coated carbon steel cookware.

Another concern is when there is a chip on your enamel on-steel cookware, do not use it because the chipped enamel can contaminate your food. To prevent chipping, handle your cookware with care and don’t drop it on your stove when use. Also do not leave water sitting in the pot because that will cause residue to build up on the enamel and if you immersing the whole cookware in water, it can also cause the steel under the enamel coating to rust.

GreenPan Cookware:

This is a relatively new technology in cookware and as such I do not have personal experience with the use of it yet. The information in this article is a summary of what I have researched on internet and from reading reviews after reviews of actual users on the product. GreenPan products are coded with “thermolon” non stick technology, which is a type of ceramic coating that does not contain any toxic chemicals or persistent pollutants. These products are manufactured without PFOA, stands for Perfluorooctanoic Acid, C8, and Perfluorooctanoate, which if consume in large amount, is believed to cause various health issues; including thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and etc. This chemical is also known to have killed birds.

The GreenPan products will not release toxic fumes even when the temperature reach 450°C/850°F and the coating will not blister or peel. The thermolon technology is better at conducting heat than the traditional coatings. As such, this results in great searing and crispy frying. Other than the health benefit from using these great cooking products, the prices for these products are also very reasonable.

Hopefully after reading this guide, you will find the information you need to help you pick your best cookware. As pointed out in this best cookware guide that you must know what you want and need in order to find the best cookware for your purposes. This is different from one person to another so there is no one best cookware fits all out there. Before you buy your cookware, go over the comparison chart then decide what is best for you. After you make up your mind, go into the details of that category and find the particular products you need in that category.

As you know, new cookware are being created all the time by new and old manufacturers.  For that reason, the comparison chart above will be updated.  Or if you feel like we missed a superior cookware that needs to be included on the list, let me know in the comments below!